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Countywide fire hydrant testing under way

COVINGTON - Residents who turn on the tap to find discolored water flowing out shouldn't be alarmed: It's likely due to testing of fire hydrants being conducted by Newton County Fire Services.

Firefighters will be testing nearly 5,000 hydrants throughout the county to make sure they have adequate flow during the next few months. The process sometimes stirs up sediment that is already in the lines, causing water to appear dirty or muddy, said Kevin O'Brien, deputy chief of operations for Newton County Fire Services.

"Often when we begin this process, the Water Authority and Newton County Fire will receive multiple calls from citizens concerned about the dirty or muddy water people may experience when they turn on their water taps for the first time after hydrants in their area have been tested," O'Brien said.

"To eliminate this issue, we recommend that the residents run their water for several minutes," he added.

The fire department is required to test the hydrants annually in order to get maximum credit from the Insurance Service Organization, the agency that assigns a Public Protection Classification to communities that determines fire insurance premiums for properties.

During the last several years, the hydrants have not been tested as frequently due to the drought, O'Brien said.

With the recent rain making water resources plentiful, firefighters are planning to test all county fire hydrants this summer.

They'll be able to determine how much water is available from the hydrants, something that is particularly important in large commercial areas. If there is not adequate flow, more water lines are needed, O'Brien said.

They will also be able to locate leaks and damaged lines.

Firefighters will also inspect and service the hydrants if needed, including painting and landscaping around them.

The fire department is required to show two consecutive years of documentation from fire hydrant testing to get maximum credit during ISO inspections.

The department will likely request another ISO inspection within the next year, O'Brien said. The hope is that the rating, and, therefore, insurance premiums, will decrease now that an additional station has been opened on Brown Bridge Road and a local training academy is in the works.

Residents with questions or concerns about hydrant testing can call Newton County Fire Services at 678-625-5010.

In related news, the department is in the finishing stages of locating all fire hydrants by GPS and loading that data onto its computer system.

This will make it easier to locate the nearest hydrant when firefighters are responding to a call, O'Brien said.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.